by Heidi Vermeer-Quist, PsyD
“Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” Proverbs 4:23 (GNT)
I am a HUGE “Keep It Super Simple” (KISS) person, so I like to boil down thought processes into two major themes: Victim Thinking and Victor Thinking.
Victim Thinking is characterized by thinking from a survival perspective. We all go there at times. To some degree, we have to when we are faced with a life threatening situation, but by no means do we have to be in survival mode all the time. How many of us are truly under constant attack? When I am stuck in victim thinking, I believe that I have no options or at least no “good” options. I feel extremely anxious, hopeless, perhaps depressed, and desperate. If this is my perspective, and therefore my reality, it is likely that I will either cower in a corner or become aggressive and abusive toward others in order to survive.
There are four Fear-based survival reactions, each starting with the letter “F”. When we view ourselves as Victims it is likely that we will react with Freeze, Fight, Flight, and/or Fix behaviors. A statement that motivates me to move out of victim thinking is the statement, “Victims stuck in victim thinking will become abusers.” I know this to be true in my own life. While I may not overtly abuse someone else, it is highly likely that I will lash out at those closest to me when I’m stuck in victim thinking. How about you?
Victor (or non-victim) Thinking is largely characterized by a mentality of “I’m Okay. This situation may be bad, but I’m okay.” When we hold onto an internal sense of security we are able to think more clearly and search for options to get through difficult situations. If I embrace a victor mentality, I am able to draw more effectively from the positive resources both inside and outside of myself. Conversely, when I’m stuck in victim thinking, I perceive very few positive resources inside and outside of myself.
From a Christian perspective, we believe that God provides us with everything we need at all times. Consider with me some of the basic gifts we receive every day: from oxygen, food and water, to values and social resources, to changes and options arising in our lives and environment every moment. As we turn to God as our source of everything, we begin to hope again, to see a more positive perspective, and to take “the good” into our thought lives. We can take comfort in that moment as we notice God’s loving presence.
We may consider the supportive people that are available to us. We can choose to engage in activities we CAN do (rather than focusing on what we can’t). For example, focus on basic activities I can change, like washing dishes, self-care (healthy eating, sleeping, exercise), and exploring options while remaining grounded in the present moment. As I calm myself down (reducing my fear), I open myself up to embrace other options that are already at my disposal. Rather than being driven by fear, I’m committed to hope and finding solutions. I may even be able to experience joy in the midst of difficult times. As a result, I am more able to connect with other people honestly and respectfully, rather than reactively or fearfully.
Heidi Vermeer-Quist, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist working at the Pine Rest Des Moines Clinic since 2002. She provides psychotherapy to people struggling with depression, anxiety, relational conflicts, unresolved grief and adjustment, and personality disorders.